Opening Day—Five Observations: Fan’s Take

Finally, every Major League team has played at least one regular season game. Those games have already brought some terrific baseball moments that foreshadow an exciting season. One or two games do not mean a whole lot for individuals or even teams because no one knows exactly how things will pan out over a full season. Nevertheless, here are five observations from the first few days—in no particular order.

#1—No Albert, no problem

The St. Louis Cardinals will do just fine without Albert Pujols. The Cardinals won their first two games by a combined score of 15-6. The odd part of it is that the wins came over two different teams, the Miami Marlins (4-1) on April 4 and the Milwaukee Brewers (11-5) on April 6. They still have ample power in Carlos Beltran, Lance Berkman, Matt Holliday, and David Freese and strong pitching—especially when Chris Carpenter returns. They will score plenty of runs and win the National League Central.

#2 - A.L. East race as intense as ever

The New York Yankees and Tampa Bay Rays played an opener similar in intensity (but quite as much) as Game 162 in 2011. A back-and-forth power surge to open the season got my attention as the two offenses beat up on each other's ace, and the Rays beat the best closer in baseball history. Not every game will have this much excitement, but many will. Both teams will battle each other and the Boston Red Sox all season, but the Yankees will win the division.

#3 - Carlos Pena is a class act.

In his return to the Tampa Bay Rays, Carlos Pena hit a grand slam in his first at bat off C.C. Sabathia and a walk-off single off Mariano Rivera that very nearly became another grand slam. During his post-game interview, Pena did not brag about his hits. He praised both Sabathia and Rivera for their talents and the Yankees as the great team they are. He thanked the fans for the ovation they gave him during the stating lineup announcements. I hope Pena has a terrific season - except against the Yankees.

#4 - Yoenis Cespedes' power

Oakland Athletics Rookie Yoenis Cespedes can launch a ball as far as Pujols. His home run on April 6 went approximately 100 feet past the 388 mark in left-center in Oakland. It may have gone another 100 feet or more if the stands had not gotten in the way. It was the second home run for Cespedes in three games (first two in Tokyo) and so far makes his $36 million contract look very good.

#5 - Same old things at Wrigley Field

The Chicago Cubs lost their opener in much the same way they lose most of their games: runners thrown out at third and home, blown lead in eighth due to walks, misplayed easy ground ball, hitting into double plays, and leaving the tying run on base in the ninth via strikeout. As a frustrated Cub fan, I see the new team looking very much like the old team in Game 1. Hopefully they will break out of all that as the season rolls along.

Honorable Mentions: Marlins Park looks awesome. Jose Valverde will not be perfect. Joey Votto is a happy rich man. Sean Marshall gets a chance to close. Some teams will miss their injured closers.

All this and more came from just the first three days of the 2012 season. If these are only the precursors, then this should be a fun season.

Sources:

MLB Network Broadcast, Quick Pitch, April 6, 2012.

Sun Sports Broadcast, New York Yankees at Tampa Bay Rays, April 6, 2012.

Yahoo! Sports; Scores and Schedules, April 4, 5, 6; sports.yahoo.com/mlb.

Raymond became a baseball fan at a very young age. He played baseball through high school and soon after became a varsity coach. He currently coaches Little League in Florida. Raymond previously produced radio sports talk shows and hosted a weekly MLB radio call-in show. He is big fan of the Chicago Cubs and New York Yankees. Follow Raymond on Twitter @RayBureau

More from this contributor:

A.L. East—the Yankees Will Win: Fan Prediction

N.L. East—the Nationals Will Surprise Everyone: Fan Prediction

N.L. Central—Cardinals Division Champs: Fan Prediction

I Set Personal Preference Aside for Better MLB Replay Use: Fan's Take

MLB Opening Day—for Real Games Only: Fan Opinion

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Updated Saturday, Apr 7, 2012